Young Advocates Initiative Club provides safe space for difficult conversations



The leadership team of the Young Advocates Initiative Club (YAIC) includes juniors Roz Rafati, Elina Kasida, Sofia Noyes and Zara Sideeka.

While based at the high school, the Young Advocates Initiative Club (YAIC) extends its reach into elementary and middle schools.

Led by junior Roz Rafati, YAIC focuses on social issues from a student lens and offers a safe space for discussing and making changes in the community. One of YAIC’s latest projects raised money for Rosie’s Place, a homeless shelter located in Boston for women in need. The club raised over $100 through a bake sale.

Rafati’s older brother, Ryan Rafati started YAIC before she was in high school, and while the club initially only had a few members, it now has over ten.

“My brother actually started the club before me, before I was even in high school. He did very similar things, he had discussions based on race, gender and sexuality,” Rafati said.

YAIC began as a safe place to talk about mental health issues throughout the pandemic. As the dialogue expanded past COVID-19 related topics, the club started to draft projects connected to issues students see in their everyday school lives.

Club members teach classes to middle school students about social justice, according to Rafati. They would like the curriculum to incorporate these topics, normalizing traditionally difficult conversations in younger grades.

Junior Elina Kasida said the club gives students the chance to make change within the school and town. YAIC members speak to younger grades on topics such as race and gender.

“Honestly, I think it’s mainly the opportunities we have [that are important]. For example, we saw an opportunity to go to an elementary school and we prioritize that because it’s a bigger thing that we can do. The things that we prioritize are mainly education and school community based,” Kasida said.

YAIC members will try to reach teachers in addition to students, according to Kasida.

“It has to come from the administration. I’m working with a group to implement LGBTQ+ history into our curriculum. I think a lot of it goes into teacher training, and that’s a bigger administration issue that we need to address,” Kasida said.

Junior Zara Sideeka said that the club has many plans for this school year.

“We are going to continue to have these conversations, expand our thinking, do more personal outreach, bake sales and help raise money,” Sideeka said.